Sunday, 4 September 2011

Day Eight - Sunday 4th September - York Minster & back to Todmorden

Another modern-day pilgrim, Deborah Douglas, wrote in Pilgrims in the Kingdom: “It is exhilarating to walk atop the city walls of York… looking down on a thriving city that remembers not only the Middle Ages but also the Vikings, the Saxons and the Romans.”


Ah yes, the Romans – we were here because of a Roman – the first Bishop of York, no less. Today we were going to meet the 97th Archbishop of York – a man who, as a refugee to this country himself, had doubtless faced in a very raw way, some of the challenges we’d encountered.

It was, as I’d hoped, a comfortable night’s sleep in the enclosed wooden pew. Last night on my way back from supper I’d noticed a body sleeping on the front steps of the church. This morning I went out to see if he wanted some breakfast. My approach startled him, but he accepted my offer and tucked into toast and coffee, and told me his name was Brendan. It crossed my mind to tell him why we were sleeping in the chapel, but then again I thought it was probably of more interest to us than him, so I left him to eat in peace.

Tina had asked me if I’d join her in doing an interview for BBC Radio York. So after breakfast she and I and Brian took a taxi to their studio, where we were interviewed by Julia Booth. From the way she talked it was clear that Tina’s passion for the subject – and her love for Paulinus, the apostle of the north – is undimmed. I like to think that the northerners listening felt a tingle of pride when they heard her speaking.

Tina & Joan
After the interview we had to hot-foot it, blisters and all, to Museum Gardens to meet the rest of the group, plus a coach-load of people from St Mary’s who’d come to join us for the ‘closing ceremony’ as someone called it. Among them was Joan, who I was told had been a stalwart and supporter of the Paulinus Way project from the outset. Tina greeted her like a long-lost mother, and insisted that she walk at the front of group with those who had walked the whole way. It was a nice acknowledgement that Joan’s role had also been a journey of pilgrimage.

When we reached the Minster entrance we huddled outside waiting for the Archbishop to appear. Many of us agreed that it felt strange not to be walking, and I got a reminder on my phone that I should have been doing coffee after church back in Heptonstall. Oops!

As yesterday evening, and as when we’d limped into Leeds, we were incongruous in comparison with the cathedral slickers who were going through that impressive entrance. Once again, we were ragged interlopers in a world where it matters to be smart. But the only difference was that here we were known and our achievement was acknowledged. We wore our griminess as a badge of honour.

When he arrived, the Archbishop said a prayer on the steps before leading us down the aisle. We were watched in silence by the entire congregation. As I linked arms with Helena and Jayne, I found it was a moment of intense humility, and in a sudden flash I understood something quite new. I realised that there’s nothing cringing or inferior about being humble, but at the heart of true humility is a kernel of inextinguishable pride.

We took our seats in the reserved pews and the service began. The first part was a welcome from our own Bishop, Stephen of Wakefield. He summoned Tina and presented her with a staff with a scallop shell and gourd tied to the top, and put a hat on her head, also decorated with a scallop shell.

Typically, when it came to singing the first hymn, we all lost our way in the hymnbooks, and our fumbling with the collection bowl provoked impatient clucks from the sidesman. But we’d taken so many wrong turns this week, and still managed to reach our destination, that it didn’t matter one bit.

The Dean of York, the Very Revd Keith Jones, preached. He must have noticed our shabbiness, because he said: "We come besmirched with the world as the pilgrims come, grimy with their journey." He rounded off by saying: "Christians are pilgrims as we live. Our Baptism is our commission. Our destination is not less than the love of God."
All Revved Up

When Jesus commissioned his followers, sending them out on their journeys, he gave them some very specific instructions (Matthew 10:5-42). In essence they were:
-  Mix with everyone, not just your own kind. On a pilgrimage you have no choice!
- Travel light – don’t be weighed down by material things. Okay, so we had our bags ferried by minibus. But again, many of us learnt that it’s much easier to make progress when you’re not carrying baggage.
- When someone is receptive, keep the conversation going. There was plenty of good chat!
- You don’t need to put up with hostility – just walk away and, if you need to, shake a fist at them. There were a few fists shaken – metaphorically speaking – and as many hugs of reconciliation!
- Be aware that it is a jungle out there, but also know that by God’s grace you will have the wherewithal to deal with whatever you meet. I would say that we learnt this lesson above all. Journeying by foot, sleeping in basic accommodation, losing your way geographically and emotionally – you’re flying by faith. And, despites the wrong turns (and pubs closed at lunchtime) we were provided for at every turn.

All of Us

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations all on completing your pilgrimage!